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Karl Rove Dodges Indictment in CIA Leak Probe


Karl Rove is off the hook. Rove had been under investigation for playing a role in the leak of a CIA agent's identity. The special prosecutor's decision ends a three-year probe that threatened President Bush's right-hand man with criminal charges.

Joining me now is NPR's Larry Abramson in Washington. And Larry, what was Patrick Fitzgerald investigating?


This whole thing, Madeleine, started when former ambassador Joseph Wilson went to Niger before the war in Iraq. He came back and he wrote an editorial later on saying that reports that Iraq was seeking uranium for nuclear weapons were unsubstantiated.

Someone in the administration put out the word that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA officer and was instrumental in sending him to Africa. Her name was then printed in a column by Robert Novak, who later said that one of his sources for the information was Karl Rove.

Now, leaking the name of a covert operative is a crime. That led to the investigation by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. And last October, you'll recall that he indicted Scooter Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Cheney. Not for leaking the name, but for lying about the chain of events to the grand jury.

The investigation continued and many people in Washington were waiting for the other shoe to drop. That would've been an impossible indictment of Rove for his alleged role in this whole thing. Rove is very close to President Bush, he's an architect of the Republican's election strategy. So a big sigh of relief at the White House. Karl Rove is not going to be indicted.

BRAND: Now, was he being investigated for actually leaking the name or for allegedly covering it up? Lying, in other words?

ABRAMSON: Well, we don't know, because there's no report, no details coming out from the special prosecutor. Some Democrats are calling for him to issue a report to talk about the details of it. I think the assumption is that, again, it was going to be for his testimony to the grand jury. He testified five different times before the grand jury. So it probably would've focused on whether or not he told the truth.

BRAND: And what did Karl Rove have to say today?

ABRAMSON: His spokesman said that Rove is elated but that was all he would say because the Libby case is still ongoing. Rove spoke yesterday at a Republican fundraiser in New Hampshire last night when the word came.

You'll remember that Rove's role was diminished earlier this year in a White House shakeup when he lost his job as domestic policy advisor. This announcement now really frees him up to focus on what many people think is his real strength, electoral strategy, and the Republicans need a lot of help there.

BRAND: Right. And so the White House in general must feel pretty elated. Or at least they're breathing a sigh of relief.

ABRAMSON: That's right, because as you know, the President's poll numbers are about as low as they've ever been. And despite the elimination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the war in Iraq is increasingly unpopular. The Democrats are setting their hopes for recapturing the majority in either the House or the Senate. The Republicans are getting ready for a very tough fight.

Now at least they know that they will not have the possibility of a Rove indictment hanging over their heads. The Democrats are trying to keep this issue alive. Today Howard Dean, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, says that this is announcement does not diminish the fact that Karl Rove was, in Dean's words, involved in leaking the identity of an intelligence operative during a time a war.

BRAND: Thanks very much. NPR's Larry Abramson. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Larry Abramson is NPR's National Security Correspondent. He covers the Pentagon, as well as issues relating to the thousands of vets returning home from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Madeleine Brand
Madeleine Brand is the host of NPR’s newest and fastest-growing daily show, Day to Day. She conducts interviews with newsmakers (Iraqi politicians, US senators), entertainment figures (Bernardo Bertolluci, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Ricky Gervais), and the everyday people affected by the news (an autoworker laid off at GM, a mother whose son was killed in Iraq).